Police In South Africa Looking To Arrest Guy For Tweeting The Location Of Speed Traps

from the free-speech? dept

While in the US there’s still an ongoing debate about whether or not it’s okay for people to videotape police in public, it seems like things are much worse in South Africa. Apparently, there’s a guy there who’s been Twittering the location of various police speed traps and roadblocks. Now, you would think such information would be perfectly legal. If you see a speed trap or a road block, and you tell someone else about it, that’s just free speech reporting on factual information that you saw. Not in South Africa apparently. There, the police are trying to figure out who the guy is to arrest him, claiming that he’s “obstructing or defeating justice.” While I’m certainly not familiar with South African laws, that does seem to go way beyond what typical obstruction of justice laws are designed to protect.

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Comments on “Police In South Africa Looking To Arrest Guy For Tweeting The Location Of Speed Traps”

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btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Speed

> There was a story recently of a guy who held a sign or something
> warning people to slow down because of a speed trap. The police
> arrested him, but he was let go when the cops were told it’s not
> illegal to tell someone to obey the law.

That happened in Texas back when I was in college. They were standing on the highway shoulder about a half-mile before the speed trap holding up signs saying “Slow down, cop ahead.” They were arrested for obstruction and their case went up to the Texas Supreme Court, which ruled that what they were doing was protected speech, and additionally, as you noted, that it can never be considered obstruction for one citizen to advise another to obey the law.

Patrik (user link) says:

Tweeting? Try a Billboard!

I remember hearing a story once about how a rich guy in some small American town got so fed up with the way local police were focusing on creating a speed trap by varying MPH limits, that he actually bought billboard ad space on the highway that warned all traffic that they were now entering “America’s most profitable speed trap.”

I love that story. I hope it’s really true.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I guess freedom of speech does protect all this behavior, and we are basically just trusting people not to do it

Yeah… I think you really don’t get freedom of speech. It’s not about allowing people to speak but trusting them not to speak in ways you (where “you” could be anyone, but especially the government) don’t like. It’s about protecting their right to speak freely, period. Even (and especially) if you don’t like what they say. And yes, I know there are restrictions on free speech.

Pardon me if I’m reading too much into your comment.

A Dan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I’d like to refer you to Ron Rezendes below:

“You are not a criminal until you actually commit a crime. This guy is proactively preventing “criminal” behavior BEFORE it happens at this particular location.”

Each time that you speed is a separate act of speeding. If the people are not speeding where the police are, they’re not breaking the law where the police are. This guy is not responsible for what they do in other places, at other times.

Patrik (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Eh… speed traps are more a profit making venture for police. If there’s an area where people excessively speed it’s one thing, but most of the time a trap is engineered by unclear signs, varying speed limits when going different directions, dropping the highway speed limit significantly at the bottom of a hill… those sorts of things.

The only acceptable traps are the ones set near school zones, in my opinion.

But, I was a delivery driver for years, and I was never issued a ticket. My trick for avoiding traps: just don’t speed, or at least adhere to the “5 mile rule”.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I think otherkevin was right, and I just didn’t understand the extent of what is covered under freedom of speech, which was actually what my question was about. I thought it was about expression of opinion and ideas, but it actually also covers “imparting information” which is what this guy is doing :).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Except nobody is warning people about drug raids are they now?

Although I’m starting to think that that is not a bad idea either, let nature select the strong and able, the government actually have no power to stop that and is aggravating not only the fiscal imbalance but also a prison population cost and problem.

Now if it was human trafficking I would understand but it is not and those people you refer too are not stupid like that they send scouts ahead to look for those things, why do you think the police rarely ever get traffickers in routine police stops?

Go read LEAP(Law Enforcement Against Prohibition).

To this day it is against the law to produce spirits, but people do it anyway, but the crazy law permits brewing beer.

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You are not a criminal until you actually commit a crime. This guy is proactively preventing “criminal” behavior BEFORE it happens at this particular location.

How thick does your skull have to be to NOT understand this point?

Unless of course you work for the RIAA, then we are ALL criminals – but the charges have yet to be decided!

Adam Turetzky (profile) says:

We do this in the US already

Remember this:

“A social worker from New York City was arrested last week while in Pittsburgh for the G-20 protests, then subjected to an FBI raid this week at home — all for using Twitter. Elliot Madison faces charges of hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of a communication facility and possession of instruments of crime. He was posting to a Twitter feed (or tweeting, as it is called) publicly available information about police activities around the G-20 protests, including information about where police had issued orders to disperse. “


Anonymous Coward says:

Why do they hide the speed cameras? What is the advantage?

Around where I live EVERYONE knows where the speed cameras are. The authorities made sure of that. Why? Because that way people are forced to respect the speed limit, or they’ll get a ticket, automatically.

If they hid the cameras, those that have the tendency to speed, will still speed, because it is the human nature to think that getting caught only happens to the “others”. And then they die on a car accident (and potentially kill someone else in the process). What good hiding the speed camera did? You get to ticket a dead guy.

If everyone knows the cameras are there, they won’t speed (there, at least) because it gets expensive after a while (speeding fines are kinda hefty).

Think about it this way: a bank robber won’t rob a bank if there are police at the front door. But if the police were disguised, that wouldn’t prevent the robbery (and potential hostage situation). It would only cause much more trouble.

vic says:

So… this from the country where crime *virtually* stopped EVERYWHERE apart from where the police was manning the stadiums during the world cup, where the police make more money in bribes than what they actually do in salary… This does actually not surprise me… This dude is interfering with their ability to make a living 🙂

Yes, I am south African, Yes I have first hand experience of the bribe taking cops, and if they are reading this… stop looking, I am not in the country…

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s not helping everyone obey the law, it’s only helping the people who would have been speeding “obey the law.” However, “obey the law” here means speed until just before the speed trap and speed just after the speed trap. This does not reduce the speeding, it just reduces the enforcement. This
“speech” does not express a point of view, merely facilitates offenders in not getting caught. Sounds a lot more like the right to possess burglar tools absence any proof of a robbery. Is the speech valuable for something other than avoiding getting caught?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“It’s not helping everyone obey the law, it’s only helping the people who would have been speeding “obey the law.”

Which is kinda of what you want. Those that are willing to obey the law will do so without enforcement. Those that aren’t require a little incentive. That’s why the police patrols the streets. To discourage would-be criminals from committing crimes. But now, consider this: would this discouraging effect be as efficient if the officers were in disguise or hidden?

“However, “obey the law” here means speed until just before the speed trap and speed just after the speed trap. “

Which can be enough if you have speed traps at strategic locations. Personally, I’ve only seen speed traps at what you could call a motorway. Those speed traps are located just before dangerous turns or areas where heavy congestion or accidents are common. If people aren’t going to obey the law everywhere, they might as well obey it in the places where it is more likely for an accident to happen.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This “speech” does not express a point of view, merely facilitates offenders in not getting caught.

Why did you put speech in quotes? Do you feel it’s not really speech?

Is the speech valuable for something other than avoiding getting caught?

I have no idea about South African law, but in the US at least there’s no caveat about having to express a point of view in order for speech to be protected. It also doesn’t have to be “valuable”. That’s kind of a scary thought too, to have someone in charge of deciding the value of speech based on its content.

As an aside, what I mean by based on its content is that in the US there are different kinds of speech that are afforded different levels of protection, but these are broad categories such as political speech, commercial speech, etc. Courts and laws don’t make judgments about which statements are valuable and which are not, only about the category of speech it falls into. And this is a good thing; we must avoid any sort of government oversight deciding which speech is “good” and which is “bad”.

abc gum says:

I find it interesting that some people equate misdemeanor traffic violations with felony drug trafficking. While it is quite apparent that these two crimes are not even close to being similar, the person continues to use the comparison as if they were. Now one could just overlook this as a childish exaggeration, but I have seen this sort of lie much more frequently these days. I wonder why one would think this is ok.

Melanie says:

A South African lawyer comments

While I do not practise criminal law, I do view PigSpotter’s actions as obstructing or defeating the ends of justice. If not for his actions many more motorists may have been trapped by speed cameras or stopped at roadblocks. That clearly hinders the job of traffic officers (who, by the way, are not police officers and therefore only deal with traffic violations and related matters).

So where, for example, 40 people would have been stopped at a roadblock if he didn’t warn road users about the roadblock, after tweeting to his thousands of follows, only 10 people pass through the roadblock. Traffic law enforcers cannot make our roads safer if they are constantly dealing with only a fraction of road users.

In reality, we all do it. Tell our friends/family/possibly strangers about roadblocks and speed traps, but I personally think that announcing it to every Tom, Dick and Mary (particularly on a social networking site such as Twitter) is taking it too far.

The Prosecuting Authority/Traffic department will want to make an example of this guy to prevent others from following suit.

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